Did you ever think the day would come when a 7:12 lap time around the Nurburgring in a factory-stock car would be cause for disappointment, not joy? Welcome to 2018, where the Internet forums are currently convulsing over the idea that the new Corvette ZR1 was spotted doing “way over seven minutes” at the Ring. That lap time comes courtesy of spotters at Turn 13 who then reported it to Ring-centric website Bridge to Gantry.
This is already being unfavorably compared with the 7:13.9 set by German magazine Sport Auto in a stick-shift Z06 last August. What’s the point, folks seem to be asking, of paying $30,000 more for a car that is just two seconds faster around Germany’s most famous toll road? Let’s not even talk about the 7:19 set by GM seven and a half years ago in a C6 ZR1—a car you can now buy on the used market for the price of a new Mustang GT.
Happily for Corvette fans, the situation isn’t quite as cut and dried as it looks. Two months ago, during our exclusive track test of the ZR1 that’s on newsstands now, I had a chance to talk to the Corvette team at length about ‘Ring times, how GM sets them, and what is likely ahead for the ZR1 at the Nordschleife.
To begin with, GM Performance honcho Alex MacDonald points out that his team has no permanent presence at the Ring. Aston Martin, BMW, and even Hyundai maintain permanent testing facilities within a stone’s throw of the track, complete with everything they need to perform setup and development work on-site. Whether it’s tires, spare engines, or a four-post chassis testing rig, these companies have it close at hand.
The Corvette team, by contrast, does development work in the United States. When they come to the Ring, it’s usually for no more than a week, including travel time. They are limited both in what they can bring and how much of it they can bring. They’re also budget-constrained; the cost of getting a car and a full team of engineers to Germany for a week is even higher than you would think.
While MacDonald was careful to clarify to me that the years of garage-band budgets—as detailed in the outstanding book All Corvettes Are Red—are over, that doesn’t mean that they can easily spare the time required to test at the Ring. The Corvette team has released four different kinds of ‘Vette since 2014, largely because they don’t waste time.